Cablegate: Undp Burma's Annual Assessment Readout

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: COM and PolOff attended the UNDP,s Annual
Assessment Mission debriefing for the diplomatic corps on
August 28 to hear observations of, and recommendations for,
UNDP,s Burma operations. The assessment team reported that
UNDP,s Burma programs have all been properly designed to
have the intended grassroots impact and are making a
difference, but expressed concerns that programs will face a
sustainability challenge in the future. The team also noted
there was not the rapid deterioration in rural area living
conditions as was reported by the previous year's Assessment
Mission. The Assessment Mission's official report will be
available after it is presented to the September UNDP
Executive Board. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Over a nine-day period in late August, a UNDP
two-person Assessment Mission, Mr. Robert Shaw and Mr. Mirza
Shafiquer Rahman, randomly sampled township and village-level
UNDP programs in both the Irrawaddy delta region and in
eastern Rakhine State. The mission examined the UNDP,s
Human Development Initiative ) Level 4 (HDI-4) projects,
which entails Integrated Community-Based Development in
2,3000 villages, Community-Based Development in 400 villages,
micro credit in 1,700 villages, and HIV/AIDS programs.

3. (U) Regarding the micro credit issue, the Assessment
Mission noted that rural Burma suffers a huge demand for
rural credit, especially following the 2003 banking crisis.
UNOPS executes the program and uses the international NGOs
"PACT" in central Burma and "GRET" in Shan Sate, and a
subcontracted Indian company in the Delta region. Village
money lenders charge 125 percent interest on average, but are
able to stay in business because the farmers no longer have
access to government subsidized fertilizer and must borrow to
buy commercial fertilizer. Even at such high interest rates,
there is still a market for money lending since farmers have
limited or no access to credit.

4. (U) According to UNDP briefers, the January 2003 UNDP
executive board meeting had discussed the possibility of
enabling micro credit programs in Burma to achieve
sustainability by becoming a legal entity. However, the
board decided that it isn't appropriate for UNDP to work with
the GOB on this, leaving current UNDP micro credit
intervention programs as the only option. The Assessment
Mission noted during their debriefing that the micro credit
program is not sustainable if UNDP can't institutionalize it
by making it a legal entity in Burma. Stressing that there
is a huge demand from the rural areas for more credit, but
when the UNDP funding ends, there will be no more program.

5. (U) The Assessment Mission also mentioned what they saw as
problem areas: Ongoing UNDP program monitoring and
evaluation can be improved, micro financing is
undercapitalized, and the Burmese agricultural sector needs
to be reviewed. Shaw went on to identify what he termed
strategic challenges: policy dialogue with the GOB, program
sustainability, eventual institutionalization of programs,
and future directions for UNDP in Burma.

6. (U) UNDP Resident Representative Charles Petrie, who
arrived in Burma to take up duties in July, closed the
debriefing by saying that he is undertaking a few changes to
improve the UNDP programs in Burma, including more fully
using the Analysis and Planning Unit, focusing on replicating
programs in neighboring townships and villages, and promoting
partnership between the UN agencies and international NGOs in
Burma, which UNDP will push with a November Community Based
Initiative workshop for international NGOs. He has also
directed his staff to conduct a living conditions survey as
well as an agricultural survey that the Assessment Mission
had recommended.

7. (SBU) The Assessment Mission leader concluded that there
was not a rapid deterioration in rural area living conditions
as had been reported by last year's Assessment Mission.
UNDP Burma's senior staff confided to PolOff that last year,
the Assessment Mission had focused on a township in the
Irrawaddy delta ) where the townships villages had been hit
by serious floods, followed by pestilence, and forced labor
levies from the local battalion commander during the harvest
season. The triple punch was disastrous for the villagers
and thus skewed that Assessment Mission's country-wide

8. (U) According to the Assessment Mission, their conclusions
will be available on the UNDP web site in November or
December and will be represented at the next UNDP Board
meeting in the middle of September.

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